Water Projects in Africa
Water projects in Africa are essential to a continent plagued by water stress. Countries in Africa and South Asia, where 85 percent of the world’s people live, face the formidable challenge of providing enough water for the entire population.
Water scarcity in Africa results in people drinking contaminated water that is ridden with waterborne disease. Diarrhea kills about 1.5 million children every year, and more than 80 percent of those children are from Africa and South Asia. The World Health Organization estimates that 88 percent of those childhood deaths are caused by water-related issues—unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.1
Let’s study one African country as an example
Water problems in Burkina Faso are caused by drought, contamination, and lack of economic help. As a landlocked country in the Savanna region, Burkina Faso suffers through eight months of dry weather each year.2 On top of that, there are often severe droughts, making water very difficult to find. In 2016, a drought caused the capital city to only provide intermittent water service for its 2 million residents. The people traveled far into the country to find water.
Water stress has many devastating impacts in Burkina Faso. First, many of the people work as farmers, so water stress is damaging to their livelihood. When there is no water, poverty increases. Second, waterborne diseases are prevalent because of the quality of water. People struggle with malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever from drinking contaminated water.
There have been numerous water well projects and initiatives in Burkina Faso’s history. New wells have been drilled, older wells have been repaired and training of the population has been attempted. However, many of those wells that once serviced people are no longer functioning. Many handpumps are now broken. Many toilets are not being used. This underscores the need for education of the population and maintenance of the infrastructure.
Burkina Faso is just one country of many in Africa that struggles with these issues. It is a great example of the need for water projects in Rwanda and other parts of Africa, as well as the need for an organized and long-term program for maintenance, and access to clean water in Rwanda and other African nations.
Learning from Mistakes of the Past
Well maintenance has historically been a common problem with water well projects in Africa. Organizations with good intentions came into undeveloped areas of African and installed wells. Then they left. The villagers didn’t know how to maintain their new well and, over time, the valuable resource became unusable. This has resulted in 50,000 water projects now sitting abandoned.5 Other wells have been contaminated with arsenic and are unsafe, though some are still being used in their contaminated state. Groundwater levels are also an issue in Africa, drying up many wells that once functioned effectively. Other wells have been destroyed by fighting people groups.
What’s the remedy? How can we provide clean water in Africa while learning from the mistakes of the past?
- Drill deep wells. At GFA World, we keep drilling after we hit water. Our goal is to keep the water flowing even in severe droughts.
- Train locals to maintain the wells from the start. At GFA World, we use locals to drill the well and a local church is trained to maintain the well long term. These churches are responsible to keep the well in good working order.
- Ensure wells are accessible to all people. At GFA World, the local church is responsible to ensure the well is available to all, no matter their social class, tribe, or religion.
- Invest in water-reclamation programs. This is crucial to revolutionizing agriculture in Africa and around the world.
- Support national water policies. As a community resource, we must take good care of the water we have and work together with others to develop programs and policies.
- Pursue desalination. The ocean is our greatest water source. We’re excited to see progress in this promising arena.
Well drilling is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty that impacts so many people around the world. Water may be a commodity we take for granted, but it is vital to the health and wellbeing of those in poverty. You can help in this regard when you donate a water well in Africa.
1 Diarrhea: Why children are still dying and what can be done, p. 11. UNICEF/WHO. 2009.
5 Why are Africa’s wells failing? World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/11/why-are-africas-wells-failing/. Accessed November 25, 2019.